The crime vanishes: Mob lynching, hate crime, and police discretion in India

Bhat, M. Mohsin Alam, Bajaj, Vidisha and Kumar, Sanjana Arvind (2020) The crime vanishes: Mob lynching, hate crime, and police discretion in India. Jindal Global Law Review, 11 (1). pp. 33-59. ISSN 9752498

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Amidst high-profle incidents of hate violence against religious and caste minorities, the Indian Supreme Court laid down a series of guidelines to address mob violence and lynching in its July 2018 Tehseen Poonawalla order. The order mandated a police supervisory structure and stronger ofcial accountability, more stringent penal provisions, victim and witness protection, and more expansive compensation and rehabilitation schemes. It also recommended the enactment of an anti-lynching legislation. This article contributes to the conversation about the order’s implementation by drawing from the empirical work conducted by Jindal Global Law School’s (JGLS) legal clinic on hate crimes. It focuses on how the police deploy their ofcial discretion in investigating and prosecuting incidents of mob violence and lynching. First, based on detailed interviews of police ofcials, the article shows how the ambiguity of the category of lynching continues to plague the implementation of the order. Second, taking a case study of a potential hate crime investigation, it shows how the police structures investigations and charges to undermine the goals of criminal law. This article shows that police ofcials use their discretion to construct lynching — during various stages of investigation and charging — to obscure and invisibilise the crime. This quotidian exercise of discretion is shaped by broader systemic problems in India’s criminal justice system, especially its lack of independence, inadequate training, and institutional bias. The article advocates that these systemic concerns must be integrated in a meaningful response to mob lynching and hate crimes in India.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Hate crime | Mob lynching | Police discretion | Institutional bias | Communal violence
Subjects: Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Human Rights
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Law and Legal Studies
Social Sciences and humanities > Social Sciences > Political Science
JGU School/Centre: Jindal Global Law School
Depositing User: Mr. Syed Anas
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2022 04:34
Last Modified: 15 Oct 2022 17:12
Official URL:
Additional Information: This article is based on the empirical fndings of the legal clinic ‘Hate Crimes and Criminal Justice System’ in 2018-2019. The student participants who conducted and assisted in the research are Shuchi Purohit, Gurbani Walia, Bhavya Shyam, Jagatjeet Singh, Tanessa Puri, Romit Sarkar, Arshiya Qasba Nabi, Monjima Tia Ghosh, Rhea Chokshi Sunit, Noyonika Borah, and Sahaana A Chhabria. The research was ably supported by Vasudha Jain, Raunaq Kwatra, Vedant Singh, Adya Singh, Mantika Kaur Kandhari and Karthik Ranganathan. The authors would also like to acknowledge the contribution of the student participants in the previous iteration of the legal clinic, especially Tanvi Bharti, Rohini Thyagarajan, Rishabh Bajoria, Tejasvini Puri, Rakshita Verma, Manasa Ramakrishna and Tanya Manglik. The authors would like to thank Harsh Mander, Farah Naqvi, Navsharan Singh, Pooja Satyogi, Teesta Setalvad, Mangla Verma, Vipul Kumar, Devika Prasad, Ankur Otta, Fawaz Shaheen, Mohammad Aamir Khan, Atreyee Majumder, Sumeet Mhaskar, Revati Laul, Sajjad Hasan, Talha Abdul Rahman, Mahtab Alam, Niha Masih, Kajori Sen, Suroor Mander, and the participants of the consultation organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative and JGLS on 27 October 2018 in New Delhi for participating in and supporting the legal clinic. The research would not have been possible without the institutional support of C. Raj Kumar, S.G. Sreejith and the administrative ofcers at JGLS. The authors would also like to thank Oishik Sircar, Joanna Perry, Vandita Khanna, Ankita Gandhi, and the anonymous peer-reviewer of Jindal Global Law Review (JGLR) for their valuable and perceptive comments.


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